Al-Qaeda men gun-down 16 in Ivory Coast
16 people were killed at a beach resort town in Ivory Coast by 6 armed assailants belonging to al Qaeda's North African branch. Ivory Coast Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko said that those dead included foreign citizens from France, Germany, Burkina Faso, Mali and Cameroon and one Ivory Coast officer. The gunmen were killed in subsequent clashes with Ivorian security forces.
Burkina Faso is a small West African country. It was previously known as the Republic of Upper Volta and got its current name only on 4 August 1984, when the then President- Thomas Sankara renamed it.
Burkina Faso is a largely Muslim country, which had been for years spared from the onslaught carried out by Islamic radical organizations who had been abducting foreigners for ransom in Mali and Niger. In April 2015, in a first, a Romanian national was kidnapped starting a string of terror attacks in a country grappling with "political turmoil since its longtime president was ousted".
In a similar situation in Mali, 5 al-Qaeda militants seized the Radisson Blu hotel in its capital Bamako and held 170 hostages, according to officials and witnesses. It took the joint effort of French troops, local forces and UN peacekeeping force to liberate "dozens of captives after a 10-hour siege by Islamist gunmen". The offensive left 27 people dead, including the five al-Qaeda attackers.
Violence erupted in Burkina Faso when an undetermined number of attackers stormed the "Cappuccino café-restaurant while about 100 people were inside". The gunmen then invaded the hotel across the street, taking hostages and exchanging fire with security forces. France requested prompt support from U.S. soldiers and the hotel was surrounded before launching a counter-offensive. Witnesses said the 'light-skinned' men spoke in foreign accents.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) took responsibility for the attack, calling it a "revenge against France and the disbelieving West", according to US-based monitoring group SITE. The militants further said that the "mujahideen brothers" had broken into the hotel and clashed with the "enemies of the religion" The attackers were members of the Al-Murabitoun group based in Mali and run by Mokhtar Belmokhtar.
Burkina Faso forces supported by French special forces were successful in rescuing 63 hostages which included 33 wounded who had been held hostage in a hotel besieged by al-Qaeda-linked gunmen. Amongst those rescued was the labour minister Clement Sawadogo. More than 20 people were killed in the episode after which the forces had launched a heavy assault to rescue the hostages.
French-speaking Ivory Coast is West Africa's "largest economy and the world's top cocoa producer" with 5 million inhabitants and is a popular destination for holidaying in West Africa.
France's President Francois Hollande denounced the attack in the France's former colony, calling it a "cowardly attack." He ensured Ivory Coast of logistical support and intelligence to find the attackers and to "pursue and intensify its cooperation with its partners in the fight against terrorism". President Macky Sall of Senegal called upon West African nations to step up their collaboration against terrorism.